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AKA: ダンガンロンパ 希望の学園と絶望の高校生 THE ANIMATION (Danganronpa: Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei The Animation)
Genre: Video game high school psychological murder mystery / horror / drama / dark comedy
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by FUNimation.
Content Rating: 17+ (murder as series' plot focus, violence, animated blood, suggestive themes)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Case Closed
Notes: Based on the award-winning PlayStation Portable game of the same name by Spike Chunsoft. A port to the PlayStation Vita was released alongside its sequel Super Danganronpa 2 in 2013 in Japan, known as Danganronpa 1+2 Reload. The PlayStation Vita version was later released separately internationally as Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, courtesy of NIS America.
Rating:
 

Danganronpa: The Animation

Synopsis

Makoto Nagai is a new student at Hope's Peak Academy. As he starts his first day, he finds himself instantly blacking out, and is suddenly in a room with fourteen other students he's never seen before. They soon met Monokuma, a black and white bear who tells them they're trapped in the school and the only way out is to do the unthinkable; they must kill each other! Will Makoto and the others survive their high school lives?

Review

I quite like the original Danganronpa game, and was looking forward to the anime. It has fun characters, a colorful art style, and good writing. It helps that I recently enjoyed Seiji Kishi's last video game anime adaption, Persona 4 The Animation, as well. That is, until I noticed it only was 13 episodes. 13 episodes to cover a game that has 15 hours of gameplay. Uh-oh.

To paraphrase Carlos' review of the Time Stranger Kyoko anime; if you have never played or heard of Danganronpa, then you will have no idea what is going on or who these characters are. If you have played the game, then you'll wonder why in the world they chose to make this anime the way they did.

Much like the game, Danganronpa: The Animation is a murder mystery series, where the lead Makoto Naegi and his classmates solve mysteries involving their classmates' deaths. Typically the first half of each of the game's six chapters has lighthearted antics in the school and free time to talk to your classmates, and the second half deals with the death and subsequent scenes the game calls "class trials", where all the other students brainstorm with one another to figure out how one of their classmates was killed. In the main game, each of these six chapters takes roughly anywhere from three to six hours each to complete. In the anime, each arc is typically about two episodes long. The first episode is comedy antics, some drama, some plot, and then one of the students dies, and the episode thereafter is the trial for said student that killed another. This is the series' routine aside from the first episode and the final four episodes.

Remember how I said in my review of Persona 4 The Animation that the series was too short, considering the material it had? Danganronpa: The Animation's rushed pace makes that series look as long as One Piece. Whole plot points are covered in minutes, and the investigation of clues during the mysteries - an event that can take an hour or more in the game - is reduced to mere minutes as clues are just shoved into the viewer's face, with little narrative or explanation behind them. Certain vital clues aren't even brought up at all until the trials themselves! And while the mysteries can be quite elaborate and thought out as well, they're not given enough time to develop.

The bloated cast, introduced at you in the series' first episode, doesn't help. Whereas in the original game you're given plenty of time to connect with the characters, in the anime they just rush through their introductions in a single episode and expect you to just know them immediately afterwards, and unless you've played the game you will not. Even the characters who stay around the majority of the series, such as fortune-telling bum Yaushiro Hagakure, barely get time to develop so we can concentrate more on characters like the stoic female lead Kyouko Kirigiri, voiced by a fascinatingly bored sounding Yoko Hikasa (Rias, High School DxD). Some characters barely say or do anything until their specific arc, or when they are in their trial!

And then we have the villain Monokuma, a walking, talking bear who kind of looks Winnie-the-Pooh if he went through a goth phase. He's white and happy on one side of his body, and black, angry, and with sharp teeth on the other. He provides the majority of the series' dark humor (and I mean dark), as well as some of the most musing side gags (like him eating a jar of honey in a class trial a la Winnie-the-Pooh). He's also voiced by well-known actress Nobuya Ooyama, who was for 26 years the voice of Doreamon. (Yes, you read that right.) Anything familiar with Doraemon will either laugh their ass off or be horrified that such a dark, twisted character is voiced by the Japanese equivalent of Mickey Mouse. That's like if Ikue Ohtani (the voice of Pikachu from Pokemon) voiced a talking rabbit in an anime who carried an axe with blood on it. He's even the focus of the series' fourth episode opening, a song titled Monokuma Ondo, sung disturbingly by Sachiko Kobayashi, who sung Pokemon Ondo for Pokemon 15 years earlier! And the lyrics aren't quiiiite as happy as that series' song, either. As amusing as Monokuma can be, though, he eats up what little free time the series has to explore the other characters and stories. And considering there's sixteen core characters in this series, that time should have been used more carefully.

Unless you don't own a PSP/PSVita, really wanted to hear all the characters from the original Danganronpa say all their dialogue out loud, or you don't mind a fast-paced mystery series, you can probably pass on Danganronpa: The Animation. Many fans of the original video game were disappointed by the adaptation, and rightfully so. The only aspect of the anime that expands on the game is more Monokuma antics, but that's not enough to sit through the whole show. Kishi tries to cram so much into just 13 episodes, the series barely has enough time to do almost anything else than digest the plot into an animated, abridged Let's Play of the original game. And that's a shame.

Too short, too rushed, and too confusing for newcomers to enjoy, and those familiar with the game will be annoyed by the dumbed down, rushed plot. Better luck with your next game adaptation I suppose, Kishi.Tim Jones

Recommended Audience: The entire plot of the series revolves around killing people and finding how who killed them. As such, there's lots of blood (though it's pink). Those squeamish by/around blood should NOT watch this series. There's also some suggestive themes, including a fairly large spoiler concerning one character's own identity. Parental discretion is advised.



Version(s) Viewed: FUNimation.com stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Danganronpa: The Animation © 2013 Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd. / KIBOUGAMINE ANIME COMMITTEE